Q&A with New Student Services/Enrollment Management Director: James Quaid, PhD.

By Katie Bodlak ’18

What was your previous position at Fenwick?

JQ: I started at Fenwick in 1988 as Assistant Dean of Students.  I took over as Dean of Students from ‘89-’92.  I was Associate Principal for Academics from ‘92-’93 and from ‘93-2009 I was Principal.

 

What were you most proud of accomplishing in the time?

JQ: Enrollment increased quite a bit during that period and we did some major renovation projects.  The new gym, pool, library and annex were built. We also replaced the space that had been the old the pool with computer labs, a wrestling room and a teachers’ lounge. Test scores improved (ACT and SAT) and the number of National Merits increased.  We added sports like lacrosse and had a lot of success athletically. Academically we won state and national championships with the JETS and WYSE teams. Our Arts program also grew quite a bit. It was an awesome period to be here.

Where have you been working since Fenwick?

JQ: I served the Archdiocese of Chicago for two years as the Associate Superintendent of Schools.  I was responsible for curriculum, instruction, professional development and was the government liaison for the Archdiocese.  I went to Washington, D.C. and Springfield as a representative of Catholic schools.  After two years of that service, I went back to a school and became the Headmaster of Marmion Academy [in Aurora, IL]. From there I went to DePaul College Prep [formerly Gordon Tech] and was the Principal there for the last five years.

What did you learn at your last few jobs, especially at Marmion and DePaul Prep, that you will apply to Fenwick?

JQ: You know, they had some interesting approaches to education at Marmion. They are really locked into doing certain things a certain way. They are great listeners and they are able to focus well in the classroom, so some of the things that they did there I think would translate well to Fenwick. At DePaul we converted to one-to-one and took some different approaches in the classroom as far as doing more problem-solving activities and group work.  I know that Fenwick has been moving along in that regard.  I need to get caught up with what has been happening with the Friars. When I was at the Archdiocese, I was doing a lot of research on a lot of different things that can apply to almost anything in the curriculum, so I think we can incorporate some of those things to help.

Why did you decide to return to Fenwick?

JQ: Fenwick is one of the best schools in the country. I have been around a lot and have seen a lot of different things, and it is a very unique place. I think it is very special. They take their tradition of excellence seriously. The students get a great education in the Dominican tradition and really learn to express themselves. I don’t know of any other school that requires speech or four years of a foreign language. Students really learn how to write.

Three of my children graduated from Fenwick and were well prepared for life. I am proud of how successful they have been and how they go out of their way to help others. Fenwick played an important role in their development.  They have also made true friends for life. I just want to be a part of a great school.

What is your new position in Student Services going to be?

JQ: I’ll be working down in Student Services with the deans, the counselors and the learning specialists. I’ll also be helping with enrollment and admissions. I use to do a lot of work with admissions at Fenwick, and I did a lot of work with admissions at DePaul. On top of that, I’ll be teaching a A.P. U.S. History course. My first job as a high school teacher was at Lake Forest Academy [Lake Forest, IL] and I began teaching A.P. U.S. History there in 1982. Finally, I will be helping coach [sophomore] football.

What are you looking to bring to Fenwick?

Former Principal Dr. James Quaid is Fenwick’s new Director of Student Services and Enrollment Management.

JQ: I really respect the traditions of the school. I understand the history of the school and appreciate the way things are done and why things are done. I was very fortunate to have worked at Fenwick when there were still some people around who actually knew the people who helped found the school.  They told me why certain things were done a certain way and what the philosophy behind those approaches were. There are a lot of great people at Fenwick — like Mr. Borsch, Mr. Finnell,  Mr. Arellano and Father LaPata — who have been there for many years. They understand that, too. The student’s educational experience at Fenwick will be wonderful when we follow what the original founding father were there to do. I want to help carry on those traditions as much as I possibly can.

Where do you see Fenwick in the next five years?

JQ: I think it has a very bright future with some wonderful plans about many different things. I know they started a Capital Campaign, so within five years I would imagine we would see some of the fruits of that labor.

With Fenwick being more and more plugged in, like with the Class of 2018 being the first class with iPads, how do you think technology at Fenwick will change?

JQ: I’m interested to see where it is going to go. Other countries have not used traditional paperback or hardcover books for years in schools. Around the world, test scores indicate iPads have been used effectively.  You gain some skills from using iPads, but there are other things I think are lost as a result from using them. We have to consider what everyone is doing with technology, assess what is working and what is not working, and study the data on it.  It is a tool and not the whole driving force within itself.

I can tell you that 20 years ago we were doing a lot of great things with technology at Fenwick, and Fenwick has always been at the forefront of it. Fenwick also has some really talented people working with it.

I think the biggest problem with iPads is just keeping students on task and not getting distracted, because students have so much more of an opportunity to get distracted now than they did before. That’s always been an issue, so it is important that teachers are up and moving around and making classes interesting so the students are really engaged.

With you being at Catholic schools for most of your career, what do you think sets apart a Catholic education, especially at the high school level?

JQ: I really believe in faith-based education. One thing that the Dominicans have always stressed is that learning is accompanied by moral and spiritual growth.  Classroom discussions at Fenwick are conducted on a much higher level than at other schools because the theology at Fenwick is strong.  Is it moral? Is it the right thing to do? There are not limitations one finds in public schools so you can really get into some heavy issues, which causes you to think at a higher level.

Fenwick students historically have scored high on standardized tests because they are all able to solve problems and think on a higher level. I think they are learning those skills in a Catholic environment. I really do not know of any other school that does it better than Fenwick. I really don’t. Their classes are so solid and they are so tied together with what everyone is doing with each other. You could be discussing the concept of   “a just war” in Theology when talking about the Mexican War in history class.

Do you have a favorite memory or tradition at Fenwick?

JQ: I like the Fenwick sense of humor. I could give you a million examples. Many people who attend Fenwick are really clever, and there’s an environment where there is a certain amount of cleverness and humor that I have never seen at any other school. Three of my four children went there, too, so I have great memories of them being there and the great experiences they had there. I see their friends from Fenwick often and there’s a bond that I haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s really a special place.

About the Author

Before she graduated this past May, Fenwick Broadcasting Club member Katie Bodlak conducted a telephone interview with past-principal Dr. James Quaid, who — before this summer — had not been back at the Oak Park Catholic school in nine years. Ms. Bodlak soon is enrolling as a freshman at Millikin University in Decatur, IL.

Road Trip on Steroids

The Rosners sold nearly everything and are living their dream of traveling across America!

Dave Rosner, Fenwick Class of 1975.

When Fenwick alumnus David Rosner ’75 retired in March of 2017, he and his wife, Kristine, sold most of their possessions – including two homes in Northern California (their primary residence and a rental property) – and purchased a mobile home. Mr. Rosner’s LinkedIn profile now reads as follows:

Retired
Company Name: Not Working Anymore
Dates Employed: Mar 2017 – Present
Employment Duration: 16 mos. and counting!
Location: Traveling the World
“We bought an RV and we’re out on the road — maybe we’ll see you sometime soon!”

 

Rosner, who resided in Menlo Park, CA, settled on the West Coast more than 30 years ago. He had a successful career as an executive recruiter in Silicon Valley (Keifer Professional Search in San Jose) and as a sales/business development executive in the computer/technology industry (Oracle/Primavera in Redwood City). Meanwhile, Kristine was a human resources/benefits consultant, working with start-up firms and young tech companies.

The Rosners visited Fenwick in September 2017, had lunch with President Emeritus Fr. Dick LaPata, O.P. ’50 in the student cafeteria, and met with Mr. Borsch (who helped Dave get into Lewis University) as well as Math Teacher and Blackfriars Guild honcho Mr. Roger Finnell ’59. (Dave was a BFG member and participated in Banua.) While in town, they also played golf in the annual Pass the Torch outing. (It’s on Sept. 20th this year.) Since then they’ve traveled to Amarillo, Texas; Oklahoma City; St. Louis; Anaheim; San Diego; the Grand Canyon, Palm Desert, CA; Sendona, AZ; Mesa/Phoenix/Scottsdale; Tucson; and Yosemite. Last month alone they were on the road again to Fargo, ND; Omaha and Lincoln, NE; and Cheyenne, WY.

You can follow David and Kristine on Facebook (lots of pics!) and read about the Rosner’s rolling adventures in their “Tales from the Traveling Shanty” blog.

 

Fenwick Faculty Focus: Biology Teacher Dan Wnek

Science/Biology Teacher Mr. Wnek dons his summer-school attire (below). The father of three young daughters came to Fenwick seven years ago from St. Patrick High School in Chicago.

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W
hat is your educational background?

DW: I have a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, and I’m currently working on my Master’s in Biology from Clemson University.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

DW: I taught Chemistry and Biology at St. Patrick High School, where I also coached track, cross-country, soccer and volleyball.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

DW: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.  Both myself and my one-year-old daughter, Julia, enjoy it immensely.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

DW: Outside of the classroom, my main interest is my family, which includes three daughters under the age of six.  When I find extra time, I enjoy playing volleyball, ping pong, soccer and cooking.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

DW: I ran track and cross country, and was part of the NHS [National Honor Society].

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

DW: At Fenwick, I coach track and cross country.  I’m also part of the Robotics Club and Kairos.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

DW: Motivated and courteous.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

Continue reading “Fenwick Faculty Focus: Biology Teacher Dan Wnek”

Faculty Focus: Spanish Teacher Dee Megall


Spanish Teacher Mrs. Megall celebrated her 26th year at Fenwick in 2017-18, after migrating from Trinity H.S. in River Forest.

What is your educational background?

DM: I have a B.A. in Spanish from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and an M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Loyola University in Chicago. I have also studied in Guadalajara, Mexico, through Arizona State University and took classes at the University of Madrid.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at FHS?

DM: I began my teaching career at Trinity High School in River Forest in 1970. I am a Trinity graduate and four years later I was back there teaching. I was on the faculty for six years until the birth of the first of our three sons. I stayed home raising the boys for 16 years. I was working on my Master’s degree when I started at FHS in 1992. I have taught the mothers of many of my Fenwick students due to my early years working at Trinity.

To what teams did you belong as a student?

DM: Trinity only had intramural volleyball and basketball teams when I was a student. I was on the volleyball team all four years. The game was completely different from what it is now. We just kept hitting the ball back and forth until someone missed. Only one girl in the school would spike the ball and we all just thought she was being rude!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

DM: I love to read. My next book is The Bridge at Andau, which is about the Hungarian Revolution. I am very interested in this topic due to family history. In 1956, when my husband was eight years old, his third cousin escaped from Hungary during the revolution and came over and lived with the Megalls from age 18 to 28. We just celebrated his 80th birthday, which was a wonderful family occasion. I also enjoy doing needlepoint and knitting in my spare time.

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: Spanish Teacher Dee Megall”

High-Tech Education Came to Fenwick a Quarter-Century Ago

Where in the World Wide Web has “FenTech” gone and, more importantly, where is it headed? Answers can be found in the growth of the school’s Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory and CS programs.

By Mark Vruno

In 1993, could we have fathomed high-school educators teaching entire courses to teenagers on tablet computers? iPads weren’t even a tech “thing” 25 years ago, yet this past school year at Fenwick, the “Introduction to Computer Science” (CS) class was taught entirely on Apple iPads, reports Science Department Co-Chair Dave Kleinhans.

Turning Fenwick’s tech visions into realities over the past two-and-a-half decades has been made possible, in large part, by initial, generous funding from alumnus Bernard Brennan ’56, former chief executive (from 1985-96) of the Montgomery Ward department-store chain. Bernie is the younger brother of the late Edward Brennan ’51, former CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Ed and Bernie, the Brennan Bros., are a couple of Friars’ heavy-hitters:  Bernie is a member of the school’s Board of Directors as well as a 1986 Fenwick Hall of Fame inductee; Ed followed him to the school HOF in ’91.

A peek inside Fenwick’s Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory, which officially was dedicated on February 28, 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, the younger Brennan and his family made a major leadership donation to create the Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory, which was dedicated in early 1993. Students at the time, as well as members of the Fenwick Mothers’ Club, also contributed financially to the lab’s creation. Now 80 years old, Bernie Brennan’s blue-sky vision of “computerization projects” today partly resides in the virtual “Cloud,” of course. But keep in mind that, in early 1993, while email may have been a mainstream form of communication at most corporations, the Internet was a fledgling technology. Ever so slowly, companies were beginning to launch new, online branding devices called “websites.” The dot-com bubble (1997-2001) was still a few years off.

For Fenwick’s new Brennan Computer Lab, initial purchases in the mid-1990s included hardware, such as AST Bravo workstations and Netstore SCSI CD-ROM subsystems (used for information retrieval long before web browsers and cloud computing became popular), as well as software, electrical upgrades and accessories, including printers and furniture. The lab was designed to be used by the Math and Science Departments as well as the Library and the English Department. Tech-hungry teachers welcomed the new writing-lab segment, which featured desktop publishing systems for the Blackfriars Yearbook, The Wick student newspaper and staff newsletters.

Bernie Brennan’s 1956 yearbook portrait.

“It was clear to me that we were moving into the technology world at that point in time, and I wanted Fenwick to be in the leadership position,” Mr. Brennan reflected recently. “Ironically, I have been heavily involved in the technology sector for the past 20 years! It is easy to give back to Fenwick and our Dominican friends as they have done so much for the Brennan family. Fenwick’s focus on intellectual curiosity, discipline and uncompromising ethics is a beacon for us all.”

“Fenwick’s focus on intellectual curiosity, discipline and uncompromising ethics is a beacon for us all.” -Bernie Brennan ’56

New Millennium’s Web of Tech

Freshman math students in Mr. Andrew Thompson’s class, using their iPads (2017 photo).

It is interesting to note that each of Fenwick’s 1,152 incoming students this fall will have an iPad in her or his backpack. (Members of the outgoing Class of 2018 are the first Friars to have had tablet computers in their collective possession all four years.) With improved anti-cheating security measures in place, some high schools in Illinois already have adopted online final exams. Fenwick teachers have administered online quizzes and tests via their students’ iPads, but most educators in the building are proceeding with caution on that electronic front.

Since 2000, Fenwick has had a Technology Services Department in place that today is staffed by four full-time employees. These high-tech staff members manage the school’s more than 400 computer systems and a highly secure Wi-Fi network as well as some 30 switches and 122 access points — not to mention the telephone and email systems and 92 copy machines/printers! Associate Tech Director Fr. Mike Winkels, O.P. also feeds content to a total of six electronic bulletin boards displayed in the cafeteria, outside the library and elsewhere throughout the school.

Fenwick Technology Director Ernesto Nieto

Fenwick’s students, faculty and staff alike often take this tech group’s behind-the-scenes work for granted. Even those of us old enough to remember slow modems and non-connectivity have come to expect our 21st-century, networked, electronic devices to work – “magically” — with no glitches. “We do a lot of things that people probably don’t think about,” says Director of Technology Services Ernesto Nieto, who came to Fenwick in ’01 by way of St. Ignatius College Prep, the Dominican Conference Center, the Shrine of St. Jude and DePaul University.

To solve a recurring slow-network problem, data-transfer speeds between hardware devices are doubling this summer to 500Mbsp (megabits per second) “Our bandwidth may jump to 1Gbps [Gigabits per second] in the future,” Mr. Nieto predicts. (One Gbps is equal to 1,000 Mbps, or 1 billion bits per second.) Additionally, the tech team is in the process of creating wireless networks for each classroom, which also should unjam bottlenecks and further alleviate network pressure, he believes.

Using Technology – and Teaching It

Last summer, shelves overflowing with dusty, old periodicals and reference books were removed from about one-fourth of Fenwick’s 5,280-square-foot John Gearen ’32 Library. The cleared-out space has paved the way for a modern, Digital Resource Room that features Apple TVs, 48-inch monitors, an interactive projector and a 65-inch Clevertouch interactive panel.

The library’s new Digital Resource Room features Apple TVs, 48-inch monitors, an interactive projector and a 65-inch Clevertouch interactive panel.

“The new room was used in many ways this past school year,” reports Digital Learning Specialist Bryan Boehm. Students collaborated for projects in class and tutored their peers there. “[English Teacher] Mary Marcotte used it to compare and contrast the different variations of Beowulf translations,” Boehm notes, “and Dave Kleinhans had students show their final projects for computer science in the Digital Resource Room.”

On the Computer Science academic front this past school year (2017-18), Friars’ teachers taught four sections of the aforementioned, foundational CS class with a total of about 80 students. “Five or six years ago, there were maybe six kids in each [intro] class for a total of 24 students,” notes Mr. Kleinhans, who came to Fenwick following a 20-year career as a successful software-industry executive and also has taught math during his decade with the Friars. Program-wide, approximately 17% of young Friars – nearly 200 students — now are enrolled in Fenwick’s computer-science offerings.

Students in Mr. Roche’s class wrote code to create an app for playing Blackjack.

Kleinhans and his math, science and IT (information technology) colleagues have been busy revamping the Friars’ CS curriculum to more closely align with modern tech. “With so many students going into engineering and business, we made some changes to prepare them better for the workforce,” explains Math Teacher and alumnus Kevin Roche ’05, a 2009 environmental-engineering graduate from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign).

“We work [hard] … to make sure that the courses we create, along with the sequence, are part of leading practices,” adds Kleinhans, a fellow Illini alumnus. Fenwick Principal Peter Groom notes that substantial internal and external collaboration goes into making curriculum decisions and changes. “We are not myopic in our development,” Groom explains. “In addition to obtaining input from our own faculty, we have partnered with OTCR Consulting,” the University of Illinois’ engineering and business consultancy comprised of top-tier students primarily from the Colleges of Engineering and Business. “The OTCR organization has provided us with a lot of valuable information and has made recommendations for Fenwick, many of which we’ve run with,” he says.

Jacob Marchetti ‘19 plays a “Flappy Bird” video game made by Fenwick young alumni Colleen Lawlor ’16 and Henry Lorenzini ‘16 in Computer Science class two years ago.

Most course proposals from 2017 have been implemented. A Computer Skills for Business class was rolled out this past academic calendar. “We focused mostly on teaching programming for Microsoft Excel in VB [Visual Basic], so that students have some coding exposure,” reports Mr. Roche (below, standing), who also coaches girls’ cross country/track and moderates Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science (TEAMS). Post-college, he practiced for a few years as a consultant before returning to Fenwick and has since earned a master’s in teaching from Dominican University in River Forest, IL. In his Computer Skills for Business class, exercises include a module called “College Expenses,” which has students research and tabulate the cost of their top four to six schools. “Survey Charts” has them look up demographic data and break down their income according to identified ethnicity. “We also worked with the Reyes Company to have kids create their own workforce and, considering sales, determine their employees’ commissions,” Roche says.

“There is still a post-AP CS course that has not yet been developed,” he adds. This year, senior Colleen Corcoran ’18 did independent study of a college CS course out of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. (Ms. Corcoran is headed to Saint Louis University this coming fall.) “We have yet to develop an in-house course, however, for the students to continue to pursue computer science material after the AP [Advanced Placement] course,” Roche says.

In the near future, Kleinhans envisions such a post-AP class for kids interested in becoming CS engineers, while acknowledging that they are a relatively small set of Fenwick’s overall student population. Continuing to partner with a university (such as IIT) may be the answer or, perhaps, some type of online offering.

In his opinion, Fenwick’s next area of investment should focus on more classroom and laboratory spaces as well as upgraded electric systems. He would like to create a lab-based CS curriculum for the “do-ers” who thrive with more hands-on learning.

Incoming senior Thomas Georgiev ’19 works with the school’s 3D printer up in the “Bell Tower” classroom.

High up in the school’s bell-tower classroom, Math Teacher Dave Setum has assembled a make-shift, DIY (do-it-yourself) “makerspace” of sorts, which includes etching tools, a laser cutter and a 3D printer with Maya three-dimensional rendering software for computerized animation. Mr. Setum, who teaches courses in CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/manufacturing) and technical drafting as well as calculus, completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and earned a master’s in teaching from National-Louis University in Chicago. He is looking forward to students having access to 25 new Dell personal computers (PCs), with robust video cards, in his drafting classes this coming 2018-19 school year.

Last Christmas, students in Mr. Dave Setum’s class used the laser cutter to manufacture wooden ornaments for Fenwick’s faculty and staff.

More powerful computer hard drives aside, colleague Kleinhans voices his concerns that, while well-intentioned, the Bell Tower Classroom could be so much better. “Dave really needs a dedicated, formalized makerspace/lab type of learning environment for his students’ technical design and drawing endeavors,” Kleinhans contends.

Beyond social media

Kleinhans also believes that all Friars’ students should take at least one semester of Computer Science, adding that the University of Dayton’s School of Business Administration requires its students to obtain certificates for Microsoft’s Excel database/spreadsheet program. He cites the example of Fenwick young alumnus Carlos Soto ’14, who recently graduated from Dayton (Ohio) and is working as a part-time business analyst for Deloitte Global. With all of his programming and Excel experience in high school, Soto felt well-prepared for the rigors of college. Such exposure and preparedness are key for Fenwick students, in Kleinhans’ opinion. “It helps to be ready,” he says.

Tinkering with Fenwick’s Computer Science curriculum is an evolutionary process. Two years ago there was a recommendation for an AP (Advanced Placement) CS Principles course that would include such topics as the Internet, Big Data/privacy, programming and algorithms. “However, we are no longer pursuing this because we now have a more rigorous course in Computer Science A,” explains Math Teacher and alumnus Ray Kotty ’85, who also attended undergrad at U of I.

The bottom line is that “our students need tech skills beyond Snapchat,” Kleinhans jests. But seriously: in the work force, specific skills translate to productivity in today’s corporate and high-tech/IT worlds. Employment recruiters and hiring managers “go to the ‘Skills’ section of the résumé,” he points out. “They’re looking for things like Excel, SAP [software experience] and apps [building] skills.”

CAD/CAM Teacher Mr. Setum (left) and student Thomas Georgiev ’19 install a tube in Fenwick’s laser-cutting machine.

Heading into the third decade of the 21st century, jobs have changed — and so has college, he adds. Approximately one in four Fenwick students are on the “STEM” track of Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Mathematics, according to the Student Services Dept. “Prototyping skills are required for these kids. Where will they do that?” Kleinhans asks.

Meanwhile, Fenwick’s latest hardware investments are set for mid-July installments, as leasing agreements for 15 office PCs have expired. The aforementioned new PCs in the Math Lab replace four- and five-year-old OptiPlex 7010 models. While intensive CPUs/GPUs may solve the problem of frequent lag times and system crashing that plague many of today’s students, upgraded technology won’t change what Fenwick has been for the past 90 years and will continue to be: a rigorous, liberal-arts academic institution with sharp foci on English, history, mathematics and theology.

Jacob Marchetti ’19 (left) and Jack Vomacka ’18 enjoy a Tron game made in CS class by former Fenwick student Patrick Ebzery in 2016.

Technology, after all, is a tool. “Our faculty develops humans and makes children into leaders,” points out Science Department Co-Chair Marcus McKinley, who received a bachelor of arts degree from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and a master’s in chemistry from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. “We at Fenwick are experts in college prep, and we are not revising our thinking as to who and what we are,” he insists. “Fenwick never has indiscriminately shifted with the winds of change. The school has evolved and constantly strives to be the premier college-prep institution. The end goal still is to mold empathetic people who can think critically.”

Artist’s rendering of Fenwick’s future facility plans heading into the 2029 centennial year.

There always is room for improvement. “Of course we can make Fenwick even better than it already is,” McKinley stresses. “And to do that, we need equipment; we need facilities upgrades; and we need infrastructure.” Stay tuned in, techies. And in the meantime, please consider donating to Excellence, Leadership, Tradition: The Centennial Capital Campaign for Fenwick High School.

Friars Abroad: My Ecuador Experience with ROMP

A Fenwick young alumna shares details about five days in South America with the Range of Motion Project (ROMP), during which her team built 18 prosthetic limbs for amputees.

By Jane Farrell ’16

Jane with Team ROMP in Ecuador.

One of the most remarkable things about Fenwick High School is its alumni network. I remember being in Paris with my family when my older brother [Social Studies Department Chair, Varsity Football Defensive Coordinator and alumnus Alex Holmberg ’05] was stopped by a Fenwick alum that recognized the shield on his shirt. Not only is the Fenwick alumni network far-reaching, but it is also high-accomplishing. This past May, I got the incredible opportunity to serve amputees in Quito, Ecuador, thanks to a high-accomplishing Fenwick alum. I never would have gotten to go on this inspiring trip had it not been for the faith I have in the quality of Fenwick’s alumni network.

As a rising junior in the biomedical engineering program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I wanted to spend my summer doing something within my desired career field. One of my classes at UNC piqued my interest in the prosthetics field, so I shadowed a prosthetist at Shriner’s Children Hospital in December. I was inspired to continue exploring the prosthetics field, and a family friend and fellow Friar fan [past/present Fenwick parent], Kate Nikolai, recommended that I check out ROMP, the Range of Motion Project. She told me that it was an organization that worked with amputees in Ecuador and Guatemala. The best part was that that one of the co-founders, David Krupa, is a fellow Fenwick alum (Class of ’98).

As I looked into ROMP, I realized it was the perfect trip for me. ROMP’s mission is to provide high-quality prosthetic care in under-served populations, which enhances mobility and unlocks human potential. Through ROMP, volunteers can travel to Ecuador or Guatemala for the opportunity to work with local prosthetists and patients. The incredible thing about ROMP is that volunteers get to be heavily involved in the entire prosthetic process — from the casting of the patient to the device delivery to the physical therapy work.

Jesus and Jane

My personal experience with ROMP was nothing short of life changing. In May, I traveled to Quito, Ecuador by myself. I knew no one on this trip, but knowing that a fellow Friar would be there was comforting.

We worked in a local clinic, Fundacion Hermano Miquel, for five days serving 16 patients. I personally worked with two patients, Jesús and Carlos. Obviously, Jesús is pronounced like the Spanish name and not like Jesus Christ, but I don’t find it a coincidence that they share a spelling as my patient Jesús was an absolute ray of sunshine and reminded me of the importance of serving others. Even though he lived in severe poverty, he always offered to buy me a Coke with what little money he had.

Jesús was a below-knee amputee while Carlos was an above-knee amputee. Over the course of five days, myself and two other volunteers worked closely with an Ecuadorian prosthetist to build two brand-new prosthetics for these men. Both Jesús and Carlos lost their limbs in car accidents and were in desperate need of prosthetic care. Being able to provide them with the care they needed was extremely rewarding, and I will forever remember the lessons I learned from these two inspirational men.

Continue reading “Friars Abroad: My Ecuador Experience with ROMP”

CHICAGO CATHOLIC LEAGUE HALL OF FAME INDUCTS FENWICK DIVER LARRY WERT ’74

The CCL recognized lifelong Riverside resident at its annual banquet in late April.

Wert in 1974 (Yearbook photo).

Congratulations to lifelong Riverside resident and Friar diver extraordinaire Lawrence “Larry” Wert ’74, who is being inducted into the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame on Thursday evening, April 26th. While a student-athlete in high school, Wert was a swimmer, diver, golfer and on the water polo team. He broke the Fenwick diving record of Ken Sitzberger (1964 U.S. Olympic gold medalist) by less than two points. Forty-four years later, Wert still holds the school record for 1-meter diving. He also was a member of the water polo team that brought home two national championships.

In the Fenwick pool, Wert (center) broke the diving record of Ken Sitzberger (1964 U.S. Olympic gold medalist). His 44-year-old, 1-meter school record still is tops among Friars.

After graduation, Wert was a scholarship diver at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), where he earned a BA in journalism. His 30 year broadcasting career in radio and television began in advertising. He ascended to become President and General Manager at WMAQ-TV (NBC 5 Chicago) and Central & Western Region President, managing NBC-owned, local television stations in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Wert recently was appointed President of local broadcasting for the Tribune Media Co., which includes 42 owned or operated local TV stations reaching some 50 million households as well as WGN America and the WGN-AM radio station.

Wert accepting his award at the CCL’s annual banquet.

Wert serves as a member of the Advisory Council of Columbia College Chicago’s Television Department, Board of Directors for the Children’s Brittle Bone Foundation, Catholic League Charities and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation of Greater Chicago and also is a Life Trustee of Fenwick.

Faculty Focus: Math Teacher and BFG Alum Roger Finnell ’59

Mathematics Department Chair and True Fenwick Treasure

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Alumnus and Math Teacher Mr. Finnell is wrapping up his 55th year as an instructor at Fenwick. Having produced more than 100 Blackfriars Guild productions (and counting), he’s still going strong!

What is your educational background?

RF: I graduated from Fenwick in 1959. (The White Sox in World series!) B.S. (natural sciences) from Loyola University Chicago in ’63 (the year they won the NCAA basketball!); M.A. from Loyola Chicago.

Finnell as a Fenwick junior in 1958.

What did you do prior to becoming a Fenwick teacher?

RF: I graduated from college and started at Fenwick three months later, in September of 1963. (Obviously, I was five at the time!)

What are you reading for enjoyment?

RF: The New Yorker magazine, for play and movie reviews and in-depth articles.

What interests do you pursue outside the classroom?

RF: Travel and seeing plays (some for possible BFG production) and seeing White Sox games (once saw a no-hitter vs. the Sox).

To what teams/clubs did you belong as a student?

RF: I played alto sax in the Fenwick Band (and still have it!).

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

RF: I coach the State Math Team. (I’m the only original head coach in Illinois still coaching since the state contest started in 1981.) I produce and direct BFG productions. “Banua 2018” was show #82 as a director (100 as a producer). I am Vice-President of the Archdiocese Math Teachers’ Association (board member since 1968). I also help when I can with the Kairos retreat program. I am a member of the State Math Contest Committee (head statistician since about 1985). For 33 years I ran a student tour to London. For many years I was student Council Moderator. (No, really, sometimes I do sleep!)

As student and mentor, Roger has spent a total of 59 years (and counting) at Fenwick!

What qualities/characteristics mark a Fenwick student?

RF: Gifted, hard-working and (hopefully) caring and compassionate

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

RF: I always enjoyed math and (hopefully) was good at it. I decided in junior year of high school to be a math teacher, inspired by Fr. George Conway, a legendary Fenwick math teacher, who was my teacher here for three years. (And I did get to teach with him for about five years when I returned.)

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

RF: I am a good listener and a detail person. I think this helps me anticipate almost any question a student may ask. I guess maybe I can visualize the wheels turning in their minds.

What do you like most about teaching as a career?

RF: Every period of every class day is different and brings new experiences. I enjoy seeing students grow in their math knowledge and, hopefully, in developing constantly more mature attitudes towards study.

What is your philosophy of education?

RF: To treat my students as young adults, because that is what they are (and how they act most of, but not all of, the time). As I do this, hopefully I can help instill Christian values in them both in and out of the classroom. I strive to encourage students to think analytically and to develop sound reasoning techniques, and to help students see the beauty and logic in the mathematics and its place in the structure of God’s universe.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

RF: Seeing that my students are well prepared in math when they leave for college and hearing from them about their success in college math and, for some, hearing how they are using their math in their careers.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?

RF: In this technical age of society today, I hope that students will not just rely on calculators and computers to do all of their thinking for them. And that they will not let social media dictate how they live their lives morally.

How do you encourage class participation?

RF: I hope my students know that they can stop class at any time with appropriate questions. To be sure the thinking I am looking for is going on, my goal is to hear every student’s voice in class every day. This does not happen all of the time. But I will ask students whose voices I have not heard whether they see what is happening in a problem and hope this will encourage questions from them in the future.

Any memorable moments?

RF: Where to begin?

  • As student Council Moderator, many successful homecoming weeks and proms. (I have lost count!).
  • Spending a large amount on bringing to Fenwick “Otis Day and The Nights,” the “Animal House” movie band, for a concert in the Lawless Gym that wound up drawing a crowd of 1,100.
  • As London tour guide, watching students’ reactions as they were exposed to so many historical and cultural sites in London and surrounding areas and, for a number of years, in Paris.
  • As Math Team Coach, winning the state championship in our division in 2002, with six or seven second-place finishes since, along with a good number of individual and team event state champs.
  • As BFG producer/director, guiding so many very talented student performers to success in so many memorable productions. I follow the professional performing arts careers of some very gifted BFG alumni. (My favorite BFG show is “Les Miserables” from 2011 — it was the perfect show for a perfect cast.)
  • As a math teacher, getting the privilege of helping to develop the math skills of so many extremely talented students. At least two now have Ph.D.’s in math. Mr. Kotty and Mrs. Esposito are two former State Math Team captains!
  • As Kairos assistant, so many emotional moments as I see retreatants growing in knowledge and love.

3 Beloved Faculty and Staff Members Are Retiring from Fenwick

Mary Marcotte, Barb Shanahan and Lucy White leave big shoes to fill.

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New retirees (from left): Lucy White, Mary Marcotte and Barb Shanahan.

Some 80 former students, parents and colleagues past and present gathered in the Fenwick Courtyard on Tuesday evening, June 19th,  to share stories and bid a heart-felt farewell to a trio of retiring female faculty and staff members:

English Teacher Mary Marcotte has spent her 44-year career educating youth and sharing a passion for literature and writing. Colleague John Schoeph ’95 was a student in one of Ms. Marcotte’s first classes at Fenwick and later would succeed her as Chair of the English Department. Mr. Schoeph fondly remembers his mentor stressing not to take her tough editing and rewriting suggestions personally. “She would say, ‘You are not what you write,’” he recalls. “The best teachers are the most critical,” Schoeph believes.

Mr. Schoeph, a former student, pays tribute to mentor Ms. Marcotte.

She administered her last final exam earlier this month, after 23 years of teaching Friars’ students. Marcotte, who has worked in private and public-school settings during her 44-year teaching career, came to Fenwick in 1994 when the once all-boys institution went co-ed and began admitting female students.

“Mary Marcotte is among Fenwick’s greatest teachers both past and present,” praises Fenwick Principal Peter Groom. “Mary has excellent communication skills and cares deeply about her students. She has taught English at multiple levels, most notably English II Honors, English IV Honors and AP Literature. Countless students were inspired by Ms. Marcotte to continue their love of all things related to English and were also inspired to become better people. She will be missed.”

In addition to teaching in the classroom, for more than two decades Marcotte also has worked with the Fenwick Speech and Debate Teams and served as a Write Place Advisor, Yearbook Moderator and Director for Student Publications. She also has been an excellent mentor for new teachers over the years, Mr. Groom points out.

Some 80 people gathered in the Fenwick Courtyard to bid farewell to the terrific trio.

Schoeph adds: “Mary launched Touchstone, which hadn’t existed prior to our class’s founding it under her leadership,” he recalls. Touchstone is an annual magazine that features student writing and artwork, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and drama as well as multimedia forms of creative expression. “She has been a valuable resource for teachers new to Fenwick,” Schoeph adds, “cheerfully handing over file folders of her materials, not to copy but to use as springboards for original assignments.”

Marcotte also has been instrumental in fostering superior writing skills among Fenwick’s students. “She often helped out in the Write Place, at one time working with a few others to bring our writing center’s program to the attention of other schools,” Schoeph notes.

Of her students at Fenwick, “I am constantly in awe of their potential,” says Marcotte, who resides in Elmhurst with her husband Paul, an attorney. “I have been privileged to help them realize that potential. I like to think that I’ve taught with my students. Lively discourse and enlightened essays ensue when they become confident in their opinions. It truly is gratifying to hear about their successes at and beyond Fenwick.”

She is particularly proud of the work she has done with numerous juniors and seniors while constructing their college essays. “This has been such an enriching personal experience, from the drafting to the final copy,” Marcotte notes, “whether the essay is just part of the college application or for awarding scholarship monies. I got to see and appreciate the core values of many of our Friars, and I am humbled to have had these experiences. We truly have remarkable young men and women among us!”

Marcotte also takes pride in her other teaching awards, which include:

  • Innovation and Creativity in Teaching Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago (2006)
  • Golden Apple Finalist (2001)
  • Rev. George Conway, O.P. Outstanding Teacher Award (1997) – voted on by peers

Interestingly, Marcotte was not a natural-born teacher. “I actually wanted to be a nurse, but life takes mysterious turns,” she explains. “In the summer before college, I was in a car accident and suffered several broken vertebrae. I could not meet my college commitment for nursing, so I became friends with a wonderful librarian who kept giving me lists of literary classics. Along with my mother, this librarian inspired me to major in English, particularly World and British Literature. I also have certifications in World Religions and Church History.

“Today one of the influences I want to have on my grandchildren is to value the opportunities presented by local libraries,” she continues. “We are so fortunate to live in a country where these services are provided, and we can never take them for granted.” She also frequently attends Shakespeare plays at Navy Pier in Chicago and enjoys traveling to Canada for the Stratford Festival, an internationally recognized annual repertory theater festival that runs annually (April through October) in the city of Stratford, Ontario. At home, Marcotte is an avid gardener. “When I’m not outside in the yard, I love growing orchids,” she shares.

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More than 225 years of combined education experience is represented by these six Fenwick Friars. Each cupcake candle represents 38 years!

Theology Teacher Lucy White also is retiring. “Lucy has given her heart and soul to Catholic education for decades,” says Groom. “At Fenwick, she has taught thousands of our freshmen scripture in a comprehensive way. Through her approach the students have gained a real depth of understanding. As the Director of the Kairos program our students were able to explore the role that spirituality played in their lives while bringing them closer to both their family and God.  She has been a role model and friend to so many.”

Of Ms. White, Brother Joseph Trout, O.P., Theology Department Chair, says: “Lucy came to Fenwick because of her love for God. She taught her students to know the God who is love. Generously, she shared with everyone the depth of her love. She directed Kairos because she helps others experience God’s own love. She is retiring because she made a vow to, in sickness and in health, give herself to Phil [her husband] in love. Lucy has earned her accolades and awards over the years, but it pales in comparison to one fact: Lucy White is a living, breathing lesson in love. If you want to understand Jesus’ words, ‘love one another as I have loved you,’ you need simply look to her.”

Theology colleague Mr. Patrick Mulcahy adds: Lucy is fond of saying, ‘I want kids to fall in love with God.’ She was much known and loved by her students and the seniors she led on Kairos. When she took over the Kairos program she really refocused it in a positive way. My fondest memory of Lucy’s class was the practice she had of selecting individual students and praying over them with the rest of the class in a very personal way. She really knew her students. It was truly something to witness. As a senior teacher I saw, year after year, how her students were some of the best prepared in their knowledge of Scripture. As in the case of all great teachers, ‘Lucy the Person’ was the true teacher. She has had many challenges in her life and her faith is a model to all of us in how she has coped with those challenges. She will be greatly missed.”

Ms. Nowicki (left) shares some of the reasons why Ms. White is so special.

Friend and Social Studies Teacher Mary Beth Logas: “Lucy is someone who understands unconditional love like perhaps no one else I know. The courage with which she has faced a great many challenges and problems in her life, even before her husband’s illness, is inspiring to anyone who knows her story — and she has been generous with it to the many Fenwick students who have heard it on Kairos. The depth and constancy of her faith are a magnificent legacy to our kids in a world where faith is questioned, its value to the human spirit derided and, increasingly, Christians are persecuted in ways almost reminiscent of the trials of the early church.

“I will miss her friendship and support more than I can express. My overwhelming feeling is that this can’t be happening. I know Lucy does not feel like she has done all she can at Fenwick, but there is another great trial of love before her, and if there was ever anyone with their priorities straight, it’s Lucy. The best thing her Fenwick family can do is to keep in touch with her, for in its very nature the task that lies before her is isolating, even were she not leaving a community where she and her husband have had roots for so many years. I plan on putting some miles on my car between here and Madison in future.”

Student Services Administrative Assistant Barbara Shanahan joins White and Marcotte on the retirement path. Ms. Shanahan has been at Fenwick for 32 years, spending most of her time as the right-hand lady for Rich Borsch and the other counselors. Diana Caponigri, former Director of Scheduling and Records at Fenwick, pays tribute to Barb:

“When I think of Barb, I think of someone who is intensely loyal; someone who is willing to help even though she has a million things on her own desk; someone who has a keen sense of humor; who has much patience; and someone who is able to handle those million things on her desk efficiently and humbly. I could go on and on. She is one of the core people at Fenwick who do so much behind the scenes and don’t get much credit for their work. As a matter of fact, much of what she does enables other people to shine. She is able to anticipate, to keep herself organized, and to get the job done. Did I mention that I think very highly of her?  She wants little credit for what she does, believing that if you have a job to do, you just do it and do it as best you can.

Mr. Borsch heaps praise on the ever-shy in public Ms. Shanahan.

“Some of my own cherished memories of Fenwick involve Barb. If I needed numbers about some scheduling situation, such as verification of the number of requests for a certain course, she would be on the phone quickly to respond. If I needed some information about who was not coming back so I could delete some course requests, she would get to a counselor if she didn’t know the information and then get back to me quickly. I depended on her, and knew she would never let me down. Many years ago we had a student who was confined to a wheelchair and, between Barb and myself, we made sure that this boy could access his classes, which sometimes meant moving the class with its teacher to a different floor so this could happen. Being that Fenwick does what it can to accommodate special situations, some of these situations have to be handled by a person rather than a machine, and Barb was often that person. If I didn’t remember a special situation, Barb would be there to remind me or make the change herself and tell me about it. I trusted her. She would constantly update me on her progress doing whatever she was doing when we were scheduling. I always thought we made a good team whether it was working on a scheduling item or something else.

“Another memory I have is her kindness and concern to accommodate me when I would help proctor the many tests we give on Saturdays, such as an ACT, SAT or some other test. She would try to get me in a room with a computer so I could do some work while administering the test and would give me the extended-time students, which meant I would have a smaller number of students to watch. I truly appreciated this.

“In years long since gone by, we would celebrate office birthdays and she would include me when a birthday was celebrated in the Student Services area. She felt I was part of the group because of the work I did with counselors concerning scheduling, grades and other issues. She is very thoughtful.

“She and I had several opportunities to go for training for the student database, and I have some very nice memories of those too. It was so nice to spend some time with her away from the school environment and to see her relax and enjoy herself.

“I wish her the best of rest, relaxation and peace in her retirement years. These are years she so well deserves. Thank you, Barb, for all you have done for me. Thank you for your support, your help and for being you.

200 Combined Years!

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Celebrating his 85th birthday is Father LaPata (center) flanked by Mr. Finnell (left) and Mr. Borsch, who both have more than 50 years of dedicated service to Fenwick.

Also feted were the 50 year service anniversaries of Associate Principal/Student Services Director Richard Borsch and alumnus/Math Teacher Roger Finnell ’59! This quintet of Fenwick teachers and administrators has more than 200 years of combined experience!

Mr. Borsch, while not yet retiring, is marking his 50th school year at Fenwick. “Mr. Borsch started at Fenwick as both a teacher and coach,” Groom points out. “Early on he demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills which lead him to be quickly moved into a leadership position in our counseling office. Rich transformed our counseling office into what we have today. As a college counselor, Mr. Borsch has been one of the greats. I have personally witnessed his ability to connect with the students and parents to help them find the best fit. His knowledge of colleges and their specific admissions offices is unparalleled.”

Meanwhile, alumnus, Blackfriars Guild moderator and Math Department Chair Roger Mr. Finnell has taught at Fenwick for 55 years, not counting his four years as a student.

Last but most certainly not least, those in attendance also celebrated the 85th birthday of President Emeritus Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50 (on May 22nd). Listen in as Fenwick’s 1,200-member student body sings to the “birthday boy” last month.

Continue reading “3 Beloved Faculty and Staff Members Are Retiring from Fenwick”

DOMINICAN LEADERSHIP

Building and Sustaining Community

By Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Stained glass in the Fenwick chapel.

Every religious order is marked by a unique charism, a defining grace, a particular mission. At the same time, in light of that charism, each founder of a religious order discovers a distinctive way to be his or her community’s leader. In this post, I will explore the way that St. Dominic led the Order of Preachers as its founder, and will offer a reflection on the uniqueness of Dominican leadership. In this, offering one’s gifts for the common good, respect for subsidiarity, and collaboration will take center stage. Ultimately, the goal of Dominican leadership will be revealed as the building and sustaining of community.

Traveling through the South of France in the early 1200s, Dominic encountered people deeply affected by the Albigensian heresy.  His intuition told him that the best way to help the Church counter this divisive and harmful movement was to engage a community dedicated to preaching the truth of the gospel. This community would be an “Order of Preachers” and its members would live by the pillars of prayer, study, community, and preaching. The friars would “practice what they preach” and give to others the fruit of their contemplation. Dominic believed that the witness of his community’s life and the grace-filled reality of its preaching would win people to the truth.

St. Dominic preaching.

Dominic had long recognized that he had been given the gratia praedicationis—the grace of preaching. He put this gift of his at the service of the common good and took on the project of establishing a religious order. In this, he left behind his native Castile and his former way of life as a canon regular attached to the Cathedral of Osma.

The Cathedral of Osma in Spain.

Dominic’s first challenge was to articulate his vision and to persuade others to join with him in the task of preaching the gospel. Of course, the radical freedom of those he addressed had to be respected; there could be no coercion, no trickery. Fr. Simon Tugwell, a member of the English Dominican Province, in his poem “Homage to a Saint,” writes this about St. Dominic’s style as leader:

He founded an Order, men say.
Say rather: friended.
He was their friend, and so
At last, in spite of themselves, they came.
He gave them an Order to found.

Writing several decades before the appearance of Facebook, Fr. Tugwell says that Dominic “friended” the Order rather than “founded” the Order. Dominic built relationships of trust and intimacy. He was a man who was inclusive, who welcomed others with open arms. He shared his vision in a way that helped others see that their gifts and talents would be respected and honored and put to use in a positive way in the Order.

Continue reading “DOMINICAN LEADERSHIP”